NH Register Story on Truman Cognate Contest

Word game translates easily for kids at New Haven's Truman School
 
 
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
 
By Abbe Smith, Register Staff
 
Courtesy of the New Haven Register
 
NEW HAVEN — Call it a competition or a competición, the English-Spanish cognate contest at Truman School got students and parents flexing their linguistic muscles this fall.
 
 

Students were challenged to team up with family members to brainstorm as many English and Spanish words that share linguistic roots and have similar spelling and meaning as possible. The school received about 70 entries for its first cognate contest, with students turning in hundreds of words. The contest focused on cognates ending with “tion” in English and “cion” in Spanish, so an example would be “concentration” and “concentracion.”
 

On Tuesday, winners were presented with medals, “cognate crowns,” and family meals donated by Caffe Bravo restaurant on Orange Street.
 

“It was at many levels, learning but through fun. And kids really had fun,” said Truman Principal Roy Araujo.
 

The bonus is that students learned to make connections between the two languages that can translate to classroom learning. Hispanic students make up 76 percent of the school population at Truman and 36 percent are limited in their English language proficiency.
 
 
“This really increases their vocabulary because if they know the vocabulary words in one language, they can easily connect the vocabulary word to the other language,” said Mary Lou DiPaola, a teacher at Truman who specializes in teaching English to speakers of other languages.
 

DiPaola came up with the idea for the competition and worked with Spanish teacher Marlin Rivera to make it happen.
 

First-grader Jose Marrero turned in the most cognates — 149 — and took home the grand prize of baked ziti, chicken parmigiana and a loaf of Italian bread. Coming in second place was first grader Carlyssa Otero with 125 cognates.
 

“No cooking tonight,” her mom, Ermolinda Otero exclaimed.
 

In third place was Ivelisse Hernandez, an eighth grader, with 123 cognates.
 

Eleena Rodriguez, a seventh grader who was among students receiving honorable mention, said she is learning Spanish at the school and enjoyed participating in the contest.
 

“I learned it doesn’t matter what language you speak, there are still words out there that you don’t know,” she said.
 

DiPaola’s husband, Caffe Bravo owner John DiPaola, donated the prizes for the top three winners.